Saturday, April 18, 2009

5 Things You Think Will Make You Happy (But Won't)

Through The Lens points to this surprisingly excellent article about the things we dream about.

One of the many good points it makes is about the fact I've observed myself, that when we reach a big goal, we are usually happy briefly, and then become very unhappy. Perhaps it is simply because we found out that the happiness it was supposed to bring was fool's gold, it didn't exist. But, usually we are desperate enough to try the lottery and see if the next goal won't do the trick...

Maybe the philosophers have a point about happiness not coming from outside. That would be nasty, eh?

The problem with this is that we don't really believe it in our gut. If being rich, famous, and beautiful would not make me happy, why would I have such a desire for it? Proves itself, donnit?
Of course we can see that fame, wealth and beauty does not make everybody happy, Lindsay Lohan is a mess. "But surely that's because she's an idiot, n'est pas? I'm not an idiot, so I would be happy if I had what she has."
The gut learns a lot slower than the head.


Steve Cougan has and is struggling to get away from his huge success with the comedy icon Alan Partridge (which I re-watched recently, it's outstanding).

But I think that with Saxondale, he may succeed. It succeeds in breaking from Partridge, it's very funny, and it's... I think it's original. You need to adjust when you start watching it, it's not your father's sitcom, as it were. Just the first three minutes made me sit up and look forward to the rest.
I like Tom Saxondale. He is not such a prat as Alan Partridge. He may be a bit of a blowhard, but he has brains and a good heart. And as a character, he has an interesting and well played struggle with his temper, which gives him depth while also being played humorously.

... Isn't it funny, by the way, almost any actor would give a kidney to have a success on the scale of Alan Partridge, but when they do get it, they spend the following years trying to get away from it.

Another equally funny and seminal new britcom is Gavin And Stacey.

Guns defend

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Guns defend against people with smaller guns."
- American Dad

GilsDesk said:
"This topic incites a lot of emotional back-and-forth, but I think it's all about location, and what the criminals have or don't have. If you think of it in those terms, it's a lot simpler."

Good point. I've lived in Europe all my life, and I don't think I've ever even *heard* a gunshot outside a firing range.

Of course the question raised is, are so many people shot in the USA because of prevalence of guns, or for some other reason?
"Bowling for Columbine" gave a hint when it mentioned that Canada has lots of guns, but very little gun violence.

Mike's camera recoms

Mike continues his list of recommended cameras. Mike knows his stuff.
The Olympus E-420 is a highly capable and highly compact camera (though missing image stabilization unlike its bigger brethren), and currently you can get it for around $400, which is yet another insanely good deal.

If you're in the market for a compact DSLR (exchangable lens camera), then the Nikon D5000 is an interesting newcomer. It includes a tiltable screen, which I like for high and low viewpoints when shooting.
Update: article.

If on the other hand you have a weakness for big gear to boost your manhood, then this Sigma zoom may be just the thing.

It's only me, Benjamin

I was just reminded of some years ago, when I lived across from a kindergarten. On a fine Sunday, I walked past, and a little boy, about four years old, was standing in front of the open gate and amusing himself by lurching towards passing strangers and growling loudly like a lion.
Then, to calm their shattered nerves, he would reassure them: "It's only me, Benjamin."

I loved that.

I spoke a little with Ben. The kindergarten was closed, it being Sunday, but I figured his mom must be in there. So to keep him safe, I closed the gate on him. The clasp was higher than he could reach.
He said to me totally calmly: "if you close the gate, I can't get home."

So I asked him to follow me to his home, I needed a word with his mom. And he did, he lived just around the corner.
I followed him up to their apartment and met his mom and told her I'd seen him in the kindergarten and taken him home to check if he was allowed to go down there on his own. She said he certainly wasn't, and thanked me.

By the way, from the paucity of comments on the jump-rope post below, I think many people missed the video. Don't miss it, it's pretty amazing.

Typewriter art

Another "sports or art?" post: Paul Smith's typewriter art.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yuja Wang plays the Flight of the Bumble-Bee

I'm not sure if this is art or sports, but it's pretty amazing.

Update: some speculate that this is speeded up in video. But I don't think so. She makes the same performance within a long "YouTube Symphony" show (about 19 minutes in).

Kings Firecrackers

Joe pointed to the Kings Firecrackers, girls jump-rope show, video.
That's gotta take some practice!
It's gotta be a big prestige thing at their school, for them all to work so hard. Apart from he fun and artistry of it, of course.

The Firecrackers have a blog.
Here's a good newspaper article about them.

Jumping rope on your knees... man, that's a game for the young!


"Nobody got anywhere in the world by simply being content."

-- Louis L'Amour

Possibly true (possibly not). But then, if you're content, you don't wanna "get somewhere" anyway.

"Who knew that dog saliva can mend a broken heart?"
-- Jennifer Neal

Maybe I'll keep the broken heart.


Anyway: it's near-storm winds around here for four days now! What's up with that? Never saw the like. Nice and sunny some of the time, but so windy.

Wild Thing

I just started (re)watching Something Wild. Damn good flick.
For some reason I am interested in movies about characters whose entire lives suddenly start ungluing and falling apart cataclysmically. I try not to think about what that says about me. :-)
(Of course some people would say that such a breakdown may be a doorway rather than an end.)

Other examples are Falling Down, Vampire's Kiss, After Hours, Clockwise, Subway...

One thing I notice now is that all those are films probably unknown to your Jane and Joe Public. Too scary/depressing to be hits.
... Only now realizing that all these movies are also described as "dark comedy". Hmm. Without the comedy they would probably be way too depressing.

Anybody know other films of the type?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Centraal Station Antwerpen gaat uit zijn dak!

Respecting the abstract *and* the realistic

Essay by Claudia Moscovici

Eolake, A few years ago I gave a few conference talks at on the subject of artistic freedom, which I don't believe truly exists in this country or even in Europe. In Romania during communism, all consecrated art had to be in the style of Socialist Realism. Here, in the U.S. Realist art sells well, but the critics and museums of contemporary art primarily praise and feature contemporary modern and postmodern art. They sorely undervalue Realist and Romantic contemporary art, even though there are so many talented artists working in those traditions. Some of them are part of postromanticism; others are featured on your website. And there are thousands we don't even get to see or hear about. The reception of my talks on artistic freedom has been polarized. Basically, I found forums that only defend and value modern and postmodern art, which are the predominant ones in the American academia and in the artistic "establishment". Or, conversely, I found forums like "" that only values contemporary Realism and dogmatically rules out all abstract or postmodern art. In other words, I ran into dogmatism on both fronts. The rare public forum I found that reflects the public taste--namely of liking and valuing BOTH kinds of art--was, believe it or not, yours. It seems like you feature both representational and non-representational art on your website and blog. You also do both, in your photography and painting.

So, because our defense of a more genuine artistic pluralism converges, I'm pasting below the essay I wrote defending both artistic traditions, the Realist and the (post)Modern. If you wish and find it relevant to your artistic endeavors, you can post this essay or parts of it on your website or blog. At any rate, like you, I feel very strongly about artistic freedom and wish to defend it. This freedom, as you know, goes far beyond being able to post naked images or to paint or sculpt whatever one desires. It gets to the heart of cultural value in general--as a public forum--which is why I conclude my essay with a quote from John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty." To clarify, I'm not saying that everyone has to like both kinds of art. I myself prefer representational to non-representational art. But the public at large should be able to be exposed--in museums of contemporary art, in art criticism of contemporary art and in studio of art and design departments--to both kinds of art. The Romantic and Realist traditions should not be automatically dismissed as passé, old-fashioned or non-original. The public likes that kind of art as well, and it has value and relevance to us today, not simply historical value. Not to speak of the fact that the (post)modern tradition is several decades old itself, and thus can't be automatically presented as "innovative" or "cutting-edge".
Best wishes, Claudia

Aesthetic Value and Artistic Freedom: A Defense of BOTH Representational and Non-Representational Art
By Claudia Moscovici

Artistic freedom and aesthetic value are interrelated. Art that is not considered valuable by the artistic establishment—critics, museum curators and art historians—doesn't even get the chance to be evaluated by the public. Such art doesn't make it to museums of contemporary art. It also doesn't get discussed in the art sections of influential newspapers and art magazines. Similarly, literature that is not considered valuable by the publishing establishment—literary agents, editors, publishers and critics—doesn't get a readership because it never makes it into print. Artistic freedom isn't just about creating whatever one wants in the privacy of one's home or studio without the fear of being arrested or shot. Although this basic freedom is clearly important, artistic freedom also entails a correlate liberty: namely the public's freedom to consider a variety of artistic and literary styles and to make their own choices. This kind of freedom in turn requires an openness and pluralism of our cultural environment. It depends upon the artistic and literary establishment giving a variety of styles a fair shake. This allows the public to view many kinds of art and literature and decide what they prefer. I don't believe such an open-minded cultural environment exists in the world of art in the United States today, even though it tends to be prematurely celebrated by contemporary critics.

Scholars who focus on contemporary art describe the liberating effect of "the end of art." What they mean by this is that the elitist standards associated with the traditional art academies, which made art subject to very specific and rigorous rules, have died since the development of modern and postmodern art. With postmodern art in particular, they claim, artists can do whatever they please in a cultural environment where everything goes. Some scholars and art critics, such as Hal Foster, celebrate this pluralism. Others, like Arthur Danto (After the end of art) and Susi Gablik (Has modernism failed?) tend to be somewhat more critical of it. In my estimation, however, this supposed artistic pluralism, or openness to diversity and artistic freedom, are largely illusory. While it is true that the hierarchy between "high art" or "good art" and "low art" or "bad art" has been seriously undermined (which, I will argue, is not necessarily a positive development), the kind of contemporary art that is displayed by museums of contemporary art or discussed by art critics and scholars who specialize on contemporary art remains strikingly uniform. So while a pluralism in standards of value exists, it's unfortunately overshadowed by a simultaneous dogmatism in the kind of art that's being displayed and discussed by the artistic establishment. If one visits museums of contemporary art and departments of Studio Art and Design, one is struck by the conformity of thought and by the homogenization of artistic styles. One notices that only or primarily the art that's currently considered "cutting-edge" and "postmodern" is presented as a valid part of the contemporary art scene. By way of contrast, contemporary artistic styles that are more traditional in inspiration—especially "Realism" and "Romanticism—remain ignored or are dismissed as "antiquated," "old-fashioned," "kitch" or "derivative". So much for pluralism! The message of the current art establishment seems to be: everything goes (no matter how bad it is), as long as it isn't traditional, realist or resembles what the general public conventionally views as "art." If all or most contemporary artists created in a postmodern style, then the conformism would not be the result of any kind of dogmatism imposed from above by the artistic establishment. Similarly, if the public only liked postmodern installations and ready-mades, then the fact that museums of contemporary art display such art would likewise be a reflection of the public taste. But that's not what actually happens in our culture today. In fact, there seems to be an inverse relation between the art that the public prefers and what critics, scholars and museums curators praise. While the public tends to like and buy works in the realist tradition, this kind of art is rarely featured in museums of contemporary art or discussed by art critics and scholars today. I find this automatic exclusion of certain artistic styles and dogmatic valorization of others a disturbing cultural phenomenon in a democratic society.

Growing up in Romania under Nicolae Ceausescu's communist regime, I remember noticing the uniformity of contemporary art. During the Stalinist and post-Stalinist periods, contemporary art had to be done in a certain "Social Realist" style. Sculptures and paintings generally represented in a realistic yet idealized style communist heroes fighting against our country's invaders or workers combating the bourgeois oppressors. Similarly, poetry became reduced to elegies of Romania's glorious leader (the "Conductor"). Drama and fiction predictably staged the on-going heroic battle of the proletariat against the temptation of bourgeois values, even when, regrettably, those had been long defeated in Eastern Europe. Granted, the dogmatism and impoverishment of art and literature was not one of the things that bothered our family most about living in Romania or what led us, ultimately, to immigrate to the United States. We had more pressing concerns than high culture. The lack of food and consumer goods and the constant monitoring by the Secret Police (Securitate) posed much more serious, and pressing, problems. Nonetheless, the ideological homogeneity and censorship of art and literature was the symptom of a more general political and cultural repression: of the lack of choice and freedom that characterizes life under totalitarian regimes and that, by way of contrast, constitute two of the most desirable features of democratic societies.

After immigrating to America, I became especially interested in the link between artistic/intellectual freedom and political freedom. As a teenager and especially in college, I studied literature and art, two elements of culture that were dictated from above in communist Romania. It was not long before I noticed that contemporary art in Western countries also appears to be homogeneous, even if in a completely different (one could say, opposite) way from the Socialist Realism of Eastern Europe during the communist era. Rather than being Realist in style and bearing a clear ideological message, Western contemporary art seems to be deliberately anti-representational and anti-interpretation (as Susan Sontag describes the formalism of contemporary literature in her book, Against Interpretation). Two of the most important museums of contemporary art—MoMa in New York City and the Centre Pompidou in Paris—consistently display pop art in the style of Andy Warhol and installations made up of trash and other materials and assisted ready-mades that carry the tradition of Duchamp to an extreme—all of which loosely could fit the flexible category of "postmodern art". I also noticed that the kind of art that actually sells in American galleries doesn't seem to be the kind that's displayed by museums of contemporary art or generally praised by art critics. If one visits art galleries all over the United States, one is much more likely to find contemporary paintings and sculptures in the Realist tradition and Modernist traditions—up to and including abstract expressionism. The contrast between the kind of art that people enjoy seeing, buying and displaying in their homes or offices and the kind of art that critics praise may be a symptom of the fact that since the nineteenth century (more specifically, since Theophile Gauthier's notion of "art for art's sake") art has made certain elitist claims to value. Since then, critics have claimed that artistic value lies not in how well it sells or its commercialism, but in its purely "aesthetic" qualities. The famous twentieth-century art critic Clement Greenberg, who popularized Jackson Pollock and Abstract Expressionism in general, made the most influential case for this understanding of art strinctly on its own terms.

Yet in an era of supposed cultural pluralism, it seems somewhat suspect to assume that the kind of art that the general public prefers must necessarily be of poor quality. It's also elitist and dogmatic to assume that only the art that critics and museums of contemporary art favor has "real" aesthetic value. Though the process of artistic consecration differs in the West from how it occured in Eastern Europe during the communist era, the end result is, unfortunately, disturbingly similar: artistic uniformity and conformism. Under communism, such uniformity was imposed from above by the state apparatus, through ideological indoctribation and censorship. In the United States, it occurs in a more complex manner, through what the sociologist of culture, Pierre Bourdieu, calls the processes of "consecration" which give art its "cultural capital": namely through the institutions that study, display, discuss, disseminate and give value to contemporary art. If art were truly democratic and the field of cultural production were truly pluralistic, as some critics claim, wouldn't a wide range of contemporary styles of art be granted value, or at least given the benefit of the doubt, provided that they were well executed? If I keep the qualifier—if they were executed well—it's because, in my understanding, cultural pluralism doesn't imply that all art is equal in quality. For as long as people will have standards of artistic value, by definition, not all art will be regarded as equally good or equally bad.

Pluralism, to me, entails a democratization of art, where all artistic styles are given a real chance to be considered, discussed and judged by the general public. On the other hand, pluralism in the sense that some postmodern critics use the word today--i.e. as the dissolution of the difference between good art and bad art—strikes me as dangerously similar to what occurred under the reign of Socialist Realism. All Socialist art was good; saying that some artists were more talented than others was regarded as an old-fashioned bourgeois distinction. Whatever the roots of the distinction between good and bad art may be, I think it's worth preserving. A meaningful cultural pluralism doesn't eliminate artistic standards. Instead, it multiplies the choices offered to the public. When one eliminates artistic choice and the standards by which people can evaluate different styles of art and presents only a few styles of art as valid—which is what I believe is happening in our culture today--the result is the flattening of art to ideology. This creates a dull conformism which, no matter how much it's explained or hailed by experts, leaves the public feeling deeply skeptical about the value of contemporary art. As the New York art critic Suzi Gablik states, the general public tends to view contemporary art "as a loss of craft, a fall from grace, a fraud or a hoax…" (Has Modernism Failed?, 13)

In this essay, I wish to briefly discuss two test-cases—one work by an artist painting in a more "Realist" style inspired by Romanticism who is very popular with the public, and one postmodern installation by an artist who is featured in museums of contemporary art and praised by the academia and the critics. I'd like to show that both kinds of traditions have cultural value. More specifically, I will discuss a postromantic painting by Edson Campos, whose art is representational in =0 D

form and Romantic in inspiration. I'll also present an installation by Jessica Stockholder, whose art can be loosely described as postmodern. In so doing, I don't wish to dismiss the postmodern tradition of art that is generally preferred by critics. Nor do I intend to praise only the representational art that critics tend to dismiss. Instead, in pointing out the value of these very different artistic styles, I wish to defend a genuine plurality of artistic styles traditions which is necessary for artistic and cultural freedom. Once again, I define artistic freedom in both a negative and a positive way. To be free as an artist or as a writer means not just to not have to fear for your safety or even life when you paint or write in a certain style. It also means having the chance to compete in the field of cultural production; having the opportunity of gaining all forms of cultural value and respect, not only commercial value. In the next sections of this essay, I will discuss how BOTH representational art and postmodern installations have contemporary artistic value. More specifically, I wish to illustrate that both Edson Campos, a successful postromantic artist who paints in a realist style and Jessica Stockholder, a successful contemporary sculptor who does mixed media installations, combine older traditions in art to produce original and interesting art for the public today.

Edson Campos: Talent in Representational Art

Edson Campos is an artist of remarkable technical skill, innovation and versatility. In an era where abstract and conceptual art have become synonymous with artistic innovation—ironically, for almost one hundred years by now—Campos depicts old traditions with fresh eyes. He shows us that an artist can integrate artistic tradition into his painting and still remain innovative, unique and original. His postromantic paintings celebrate feminine beauty and sensuality. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Campos has enjoyed sketching and painting since childhood. He is a completely self-taught artist. He moved to the United States in 1978 and exhibited his lifelike, passionate paintings and drawings in major cities throughout the country, winning several awards. Not surprisingly, Campos' sophisticated artwork also has great popular appeal: among other places, it has been commissioned to be exhibited in all 500 rooms of the Queen Mary Hotel in Long Beach, California as well as in galleries all over the United States and Europe, including in Florence and Paris.

Pablo Picasso once complained: "Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the songs of a bird? Why does one love the night, flowers, everything around one, without trying to understand them?" In voicing this objection, Picasso was not, of course, saying that we don't try to understand the biology of life. He was only claiming that we don't try to grasp all of the mysteries of art and of aesthetic experience. Both art and life, he implies, are in some ways irreducibly mysterious and nothing, no science or analysis, can exhaustively explain either of them. Keeping Picasso's objection in mind, perhaps the best we can do is try to understand some of their components in order to better appreciate the whole. Which is precisely how the painting of Edson Campos needs to be approached. In alluding to numerous artistic styles and periods, Campos's works invite the analysis of their parts. But we can't ignore their overall effect, which creates an entirely new and fresh image of representational art. As Picasso reminds us, in art, as in life, the whole is always greater, more interesting and more mysterious than the sum of its parts. This is certainly the case in Campos' art. This artist unites and juxtaposes the most time-tested and respected traditions in art. He has a gift for painterly allusion, for pastiche.

When we think of pastiche, we tend to think of a mixture of styles that blends, often incongruously and sometimes ironically, the old and the new to subvert the old and highlight the innovation of the new. Rarely does postmodern pastiche show a reverence and sensibility to the artistic traditions it assimilates; a sense of the debt we owe tradition for the beauty created by masterful artists .. Campos, on the other hand, uses pastiche—a mixture of styles, allusions to old masters—in a way that simultaneously shows both innovation and a deep appreciation of tradition.

In his recent painting, Atelier, Campos performs a pastiche of two of Jan Vermeer's most famous paintings: The Girl with the Pearl Earring and The Art of Painting. Vermeer (1632- 1675) is of course well known for being a painter of women, of domestic scenes and, more generally, of psychological intimacy. In The Girl with the Pearl Earring, the gaze of the young woman is both transparent and mysterious, provoking curiosity, wonderment and speculation. Even the girl's position—she turns to look over her shoulder at her viewer in a move that seems spontaneous and her lips are slightly parted as if she were about to speak—convey not only external verisimilitude, but also a psychological depth and agency that are characteristic of Vermeer's paintings. The dark background against which the girl is set highlights the realism and three dimensional quality of the young girl.

In Atelier, Campos undermines the naturalist effect of the Vermeer painting. The dark background that rendered The Girl with the Pearl Earring all the more realistic serves the opposite function in Campos's pastiche: namely, that of underscoring that the world which appears real is only a reproduction, a representation. In Campos' pastiche 0D Vermeer's The Girl with the Pearl Earring appears small, framed and visually overwhelmed by the dark background. No illusion of reality is fostered by Atelier. Yet the painting is nonetheless represented faithfully, in minute detail and free-hand by the artist. Once we observe the luminous and much larger image of the beautiful young woman who forms the fulcrum of Campos' painting, we realize that this postromantic pastiche is an homage to The Girl with the Pearl Earring. The depiction of the beautiful young woman with auburn ringlets, a frank, powerful and penetrating gaze and luminous hair and lips that glimmer with the same light play and life-like quality that we find in Vermeer's portrait modernizes the beauty of the Renaissance painting. The dark background blends into the richness of a dark brown silk curtain whose texture is as palpable as in Vermeer's masterpiece.

Then Atelier smoothly transitions to its second reproduction, Vermeer's The Art of Painting. In this allegorical picture, Vermeer represented Clio, the Muse of History, holding a trumpet in her right hand which represents Fame and a book in her left hand which represents History. The rich texture of the curtain to the left not only gives a sense of realism to the work but at the same time a theatrical feel. Campos does not convey a modern interpretation of this painting, the way he did with The Girl with the Pearl Earri ng. Instead, his pastiche plays upon the contrast between the works it portrays. By coherently juxtaposing these two very different Vermeer paintings—one which shows realism, human psychology, contemplation; the other which is overtly theatrical and allegorical—Campos illustrates that both elements remain essential to contemporary art. The reproduction of The Art of Painting underscores the fact that an image is only an image, as modern art critics tell us. No matter how much it tries it cannot fully reproduce reality, it will always remain on the level of representation, of stories within stories which stimulate the imagination without prescribing set interpretations.

Like postmodern art, contemporary Realist and postromantic art, even when it emulates past traditions, is not just an exercise of imitation or a display of technical skill that's been largely supplanted by modern technology, such as photography or digital art. Talented representational artists such as Edson Campos are able to be creative and innovative in relying upon and transforming previous artistic traditions. At the same time, however, there's something very impressive about contemporary realist and postromantic art. In representing so skillfully these famous Vermeer paintings, Campos's art is a show of virtuosity. His work illustrates that the talent of creating realist representations cannot be entirely replaced by modern technologies any more than artificial intelligence can replace the complexities of thought and emotion of real human beings. There's something special and creative about the ability to reproduce reality in art directly with one's own hand, inspired by tradition yet shaped by an artist's unique sensibilities and talent.

While being accessible and incorporating older traditions, Campos's paintings are at the same time innovative and contemporary. In many of his paintings, the artist cites the work of famous artists he admires--including Leonardo da Vinci, Vermeer, the Pre-Raphaelites, Klimt, Maxfield Parrish and Magritte--to show continuity, not only rupture, between past and present art. The contrapposto and beauty of classical sculptures; the sfumato, three-dimensionality and mystery captured by Renaissance artists; the conceptuality of modern art; the playfulness, atemporality and subversion of boundaries of postmodernism; the timeless appeal of beautiful women; the reverence for feminine sensuality, innocence and grace—all these are respectfully saluted, preserved and transformed for our times by Edson Campos' unique postromantic art.

Jessica Stockholder: Talent in Postmodern Installation

Jessica Stockholder was born in Seattle, Washington in 1959 and grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. She studied art at the University of British Columbia and Yale University. She studied both painting and sculpture and specializes in postmodern installations. Carrying the tradition of ready-mades, she uses commonplace objects that aren't endowed with aesthetic qualities, some of which even border on garbage and assembles them in such a way as to create an aesthetic effect. In her installations, she uses materials such as bales of hay, fruit, laundry baskets, fans, newspapers, construction material, bricks and concrete. Her art is not primarily commercial—her works are rarely sold as commodities—yet it is highly consecrated by the artistic and the academic community. She is Director of Graduate Studies in Sculpture at Yale University and has exhibited at the most famous museums of contemporary art, including MoMa in New York City and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

Her installation, Of Standing Float Roots in Thin Air, which she exhibited at the Contemporary Art Center between February 2, 06 to May 1, 06, features a figure dressed in black reminiscent of Molière's Tartuffe, inside of a stage bathed in shades of blue, with part of it left unpainted in natural wood. Above it floats a plane of white rectangles, then below them red ones and below them blue ones. The eye is drawn to the shapes and to the color scheme—shades of blue, the brighter colors of the floating rectangles—while the stage-like construction of this installation leads us to seek interpretations. Is this a sculpture about theater? About the performative natu re of art itself?

The installation calls for interpretation while at the same time suggesting that interpretations of art are open-ended, potentially infinite. In this respect, Stockholder's art pursues the formalist aesthetic tradition best described by the famous art critic Clement Greenberg, who claimed that art is not about something else—a set meaning, reality, creating an illusion—but rather about itself, or self-referential. In some respects, but certainly very differently from the painting of Edson Campos, Stockholder's art is a form of pastiche itself, incorporating in a unique way various modern artistic traditions, including abstract expressionism, color field painting, installation and minimalism. Simultaneously calling for and defying interpretation, Stockholder's postmodern sculpture is fresh and provocative.

In discussing these very different and in some respects opposite styles of art--one postromantic that is preferred by the public and more commercial; the other which could be described as postmodern and is preferred by the critics and consecrated by the academia--I wanted to show that they both, along with a myriad of other styles, have their place and artistic value in American culture. All types of art, provided that they're created by talented artists, deserve to be featured in museums of contemporary art and discussed by art critics and art historians. It's unfortunate that it0s mostly the postmodern contemporary art such as Stockholder's which is hailed by the artistic establishment, while contemporary art that is influenced by realism or romanticism tends to be all too hastily dismissed as passé and unoriginal. This automatic consecration of one type of art and dismissal other types of art is a symptom of a lack of the cultural openness which democratic societies take pride in.

Art is inherently political. But not in the narrow sense of being primarily about ideology or politics. It's political in the broader sense of being a symptom of artistic and intellectual freedom. This doesn't mean that all art should be valued equally—which leads to a flattening of artistic quality—but it does mean that all styles or kinds of art should be given a fair chance at cultural consecration. In this country, we have long known that without the freedom of expression, we don't have a genuine democracy. I would add that without a genuine intellectual and artistic pluralism, we don't reap the full cultural benefits of a democratic society. I conclude this essay with a citation from John Stuart Mill's "On Liberty," which highlights the value of artistic freedom:

"In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what is fallacious. Because he has felt that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner. The steady habit of correcting and completing his own opinion by collating it with those of others, so far from causing doubt and hesitation in carrying it into practice, is the only stable foundation for a just reliance on it…"


Claudia Moscovici is the author of seven scholarly books on political philosophy and the Romantic movement, which include Romanticism and Postromanticism (Rowman and Littlefield, 2007), Gender and Citizenship (Rowman and Littlefield, 2000) and Double Dialectics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2002). She co-founded the international art movement called postromanticism with the Mexican sculptor Leonardo Pereznieto ( She taught philosophy, literature and arts and ideas at Boston University and at the University of Michigan. She has also published poetry, short stories and essays in many literary magazines.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

DVD oddity

Maybe that 29-DVD set of Wim Wenders films from Hong Kong was not quite the great deal I'd thought, despite the very low price. Apart from some of the films being in German with only Chinese subtitles (oops), there is an oddity: On all of those I've viewed so far, the Extras option can't be selected. I've tried both a regular DVD player and a computer. It's like they just forgot to add the link to the graphic, but that's absurd. The DVDs otherwise play fine (they are region-free or Region zero or whatever). Anybody have any idea why this would be so?

Quick comment on Love

"Love" is often described as a condition where a single person is more important to you than the whole world.
And sometime more so, where being without that person is terrible thought, something which would ruin your life.

That's not love, that's a psychotic/neurotic condition.
It may be common, but that does not change that fact.

Jed McKenna said sanity is a numbers game. If enough people have an idea or condition, it's not seen as insane.


Just an experiment in adding film-like grain to digital photos. I kinda like it. It may sometimes be a solution to the occasionally overly realistic character of digital photos. (Of course it's not a great solution when you want maximum detail.)


I've just re-bought an app I used a lot years ago, CopyPaste, now in a Pro version. It's a Mac utility keeping archives of things you copy (or cut), and it's really useful.
(I'll see if I can get a rebate coupon for youse.)

Susan Boyle - Singer

This must come under the heading of "don't judge a book by its cover".
(Though I wish that audiences knew to shut up when people are singing.)

I loved the faces everybody were making before she started singing. Like Simon's when she said she was 47... "get this turd off the stage..."

Update: this is funny, Susan said she wants to be as famous as Elaine Paige. I looked up Elaine on YouBoob, and *everybody* is looking her up because of Susan. Seems Susan has reached her goal overnight!

Update May 2: Susan as young.

Pogue Kindle2 video

Another funny and informative Pogue video, this one on Kindle2 ebook reader. (The video plays for me in Mozilla, but oddly not in Firefox or Safari. But in any case you can get it for free (and in higher resolution) on the iTunes podcast.)

I am wondering if people also said "it's not an either-or situation" in the early days of the PC, about PCs and typewriters. Well, it took twenty years, but...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Paris, Texas, and Nastassja

Just watching Paris, Texas, it's a rather special movie. One of those films which just has an undefinable quality.
Stanton is the same. And so is Nastassja Kinski. She is one of those people who you'd notice no matter how or where you saw her, I think.

Some very rare people have a sort of beauty and presence which just seems to defy them being in the same universe as the rest of us. Marilyn Monroe and both Hepburns are obvious examples.

The girl is in a peepshow when he meets her. It's a funny thing: to me straight prostitution does not seem sordid in and off itself. But a peepshow? Really sad and really sordid. Apart from the advantage of zero risk of VD, I really don't see any upside to it for either the customer or the girl. It's prostitution with any possibility of warmth clinically removed.

Do-it-yourself consumer warning

Never the Twain

"In the space of one hundred and seventy six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over a mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oölitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-pole. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." (Mark Twain, from Life on the Mississippi.) (Quoted on tOC.)

Thirty years differ

This is more geared towards American baby-boomers than European... what the hell am I? Is there a word for people born in the sixties?
But it's funny and well observed.

What a difference 30 years makes:

1973: Long hair
2003: Longing for hair

1973: The perfect high
2003: The perfect high yield mutual fund

1973: KEG
2003: EKG

1973: Acid rock
2003: Acid reflux

1973: Moving to California because it's cool
2003: Moving to California because it's warm

1973: Growing pot
2003: Growing pot belly

1973: Trying to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor
2003: Trying NOT to look like Marlon Brando or Liz Taylor

1973: Seeds and stems
2003: Roughage

1973: Popping pills, smoking joints
2003: Popping joints

1973: Killer weed
2003: Weed killer

1973: Hoping for a BMW
2003: Hoping for a BM

1973: The Grateful Dead
2003: Dr. Kevorkian

1973: Going to a new, hip joint
2003: Receiving a new hip joint

1973: Rolling Stones
2003: Kidney Stones

1973: Being called into the principal's office
2003: Calling the principal's office

1973: Screw the system
2003: Upgrade the system

1973: Disco
2003: Costco

1973: Parents begging you to get your hair cut
2003: Children begging you to get their heads shaved

1973: Taking acid
2003: Taking antacid

1973: Passing the drivers' test
2003: Passing the vision test

1973: Whatever
2003: Depends

Getting notifications

Does anybody know if a reader somehow can sign up to get an email notification of a new post? Some of us don't care for RSS, because it doesn't have the normal layout and graphics, and no videos.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Murals of Alexandros Vasmoulakis

The Murals of Alexandros Vasmoulakis, photos.
It'd be cool to make a mural one day, I never thought of that. Surely not lucrative, but it's seen.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

What to Do With Hotel Soap

What to Do With Hotel Soap, a real story. I think we've all experienced Excellent Communication like this.

Tooth fairy

Why did the good comic strips and the good sitcoms all go away?

Ministry: "So What"

Old Ministry song. (Gawd, I guess about 20 years old now. Feels like yesterday.) (Not an official video, of course.)

I guess metal is for angry people, like blues/country is for sad people. Of course it does not mean you're angry or sad all the time.

Numbers are fascinating

Numbers are fascinating. The difference between a million, a billion, and a trillion is huge, but it's just abstract to most of us. As an illustration, it's said that Michael Jordan makes more per day than many people make per year, and yet if he saved everything for five hundred years, he would still not be as rich as Bill Gates is now. Astounding.